After over a decade of speculation, perhaps the most important living Reggae artist Burning Spear is finally releasing a new album.
No Destroyer, released via Spear’s own label Burning Music, has been ready since around 2012. Spear first spoke to Reggaeville about it in 2011, saying then there was “no deadline”. Then, in 2022 (and after much public speculation) he said:
“This album… was recorded [and mixed] in the Magic Shop… and mastered at Sterling Sound, New York. So, the people, especially my fans, they just have to have a little patience and they will receive this album when the time is right”.
The time is clearly right, as the wait is over. No Destroyer is classic Spear: richly arranged orchestration, strong vocal performances, and compelling lyrics.
The album’s openerThe Spear is a piece of winding, funky Roots with his signature, swaying horn section (Greg Glassman’s trumpet, Jason Jackson’s trombone, and Jerry Johnson’s sax). Spear’s strong vocal about him as an artist is compelling, too.
The title track has an intricate percussive arrangement across Karl W. Wright’s drums, plus Spear’s narrative about having to go up against others in life. Then, Independent winds the pace back with a focus here on a pleasing lead guitar line and electric organ. Spear’s hail to his musical and spiritual independence is powerful.
Jamaica is an immersive, funky yet brooding ode to the island’s history and culture. The fluid pace is driven by Laurence Lewis’s bubble rhythm keys plus inflections of Dub engineering. Next Cure for Cancer’s upbeat vibes contradict the narrative of science’s inability (or unwillingness) to solve cancer. The strong backing vocals, the flute line, plus bird samples are glorious.
Obsession changes No Destroyer’s thrust, focusing on a more Soul-led arrangement, with detailed, complex chord progressions and funky guitars and electric organ. Spear’s vocal here is particularly strong – running complex riffs – about a person’s unhealthy infatuation with someone. The previously released Mommy is a moving ode to Babylon’s neglect of the youth, and parents’ response, whileOpen The Gate shows Spear’s musical dexterity: an arrangement drawing on Blues, with its lilting, dampened guitars – plus pattering drums cementing this musical ode to Bob Marley.
No Foolis punchy Roots, with a focus on Dub across the drums and stark reverb, some pleasing additional percussion, and minimal instrumental layering with pointed breaks (enhancing Spear’s lyrics about his resilience). Then, Negril takes No Destroyer’s sound back to a rudimentary Roots vibe. Talk is driven by Linford "Lenny" Carby’s rhythm guitar as it swaggers and sways as a backdrop to Spear’s forthright vocal narrative about people diminishing him.
No Destroyer concludes with They Think. It’s an evocative chant-like piece, with unfussy chord progressions, Dave Selim Reichley’s relentless bass and Spear’s well-constructed three-tone melody – coupled with lyrics of self-determination and strength: a fitting conclusion.
Overall, No Destroyer is well worth the wait. A highly competent, engaging, and attractive project that shows just why Spear is the legend he is: glorious, endearing, and deft.